It has been more than ten years ago since I first began hearing about sustainability on top of a very good financial period in 2007 – 2008. In that time we started thinking – we have enough products, maybe we should need to do something meaningful too? Due to that reason, sustainability became a subject which has been introduced and widely scaled for years. It did not last long until sustainability was called a mega trend and it touched many different places and industries, particularly the lifestyle industry.
So why aren’t we further with sustainability now that it has been more than 10 years of focus, talk, and discussion? It is still not mainstream and the total transition is yet to come since it is not a choice of every consumer out there.
There are several reasons supporting this development. If we look at it from the consumer’s point of view, we have to understand what is driving one to buy. That is liked to individual emotional preferences. Some consumers have emotional preferences closely linked to sustainability and therefore products that are more sustainable will be both preferred and top of mind choice. However, the majority does not have those emotional preferences. Even though they might say that they do. We can also see this allegation in several types of researches and surveys which represents people’s opinion about sustainability. Even though70 to 80 percent of answers show that consumers prefer buying products from businesses or brands which are more conscious of sustainability and do something active in order to create an ecological or sustainable product and would not use a lot of resources for producing it. Unfortunately, a big shift happens in the POP (Point of Purchase) situation and these percentages dramatically fall down to 50-60 percent. It explains that consumers are confronted with their own emotional preferences or different price points when it comes to a moment of purchasing. Those situations have an upper hand, they can easily bypass a responsible (and rational) mindset if it’s for the purpose of looking good or for the purpose of getting that new thing, whether is it a car or a blouse or a new pillow for home. It that moment the emotional preferences can overrule good intentions.
In the end, it creates difficulties for businesses to navigate since we are not sure if we supposed to listen to the surveys and follow the sustainability trend, even though it might challenge our business model. That is where I am saying that maybe it is best to not listen to everything that consumers claim to be, but I would advise to take it as a transitional path in a longer period of time. It is important for your business. Because the change is also starting to happen from the top and down. The UN’s sustainable growth goals affect the political systems and legislation on both European and national level. We see more and more political directions turning green and sustainable. It is becoming a pressure on businesses from above demanding a greener business model. And the transition to that is not made in one day. That is the way an approach to be as sustainable as possible is a good strategy. In that way, your business will begin that transition and hopefully be ahead of legislation and not the other way around.